Steve Doszpot quits Assembly with a mission to raise awareness of liver cancer
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Steve Doszpot quits Assembly with a mission to raise awareness of liver cancer

Nine years ago, Steve Doszpot entered the ACT parliament with a mission to tackle what he calls "the lost causes". Now, he faces terminal cancer, and he faces it determined that while ultimately nothing can be done for him, he will make sure his illness can help others.

Mr Doszpot, who announces his resignation from the Liberal team on Tuesday, sparking a countback for his seat, wants to raise awareness of liver cancer and encourage people at risk to have checks.

ACT Liberal parliamentarian Steve Doszpot with his wife Maureen Doszpot at his home last week.

ACT Liberal parliamentarian Steve Doszpot with his wife Maureen Doszpot at his home last week.Credit:Jamila Toderas

Mr Doszpot, 69, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes nine years ago, and said he didn't realise until his diagnosis with cancer almost a year ago that his diabetes put him at increased risk of liver cancer. He had had three-monthly blood tests to manage his diabetes, with no indication of a problem, but Mr Doszpot said he now knows that he should have had regular scans which could have picked up his cancer while it was treatable.

"I can't help myself any further in this, this is a very quickly growing disease," he said. "I'm very keen to get the message into the community that people in the at-risk categories need to do more than get the periodic blood tests, they need to go for an MRI or a scan.

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"I'm saying it as it is, hopefully to make people aware of the severity of the illness to catch it in time."

Mr Doszpot's tumour is inoperable because of its position in his liver.

While he had hoped to finish the parliamentary term, he has been on sick leave and said he now wanted to be with his family and hoped to raise awareness of his disease and perhaps also organise a fundraiser.

Mr Doszpot will tell the Assembly that his medical team had helped him face "the reality grim prognosis with just a glimmer of hope", but "around a month ago, Maureen, our children and I were left with just reality".

Mr Doszpot has two adult children, both in Canberra, and five grandchildren. His wife retired as a school principal last year and his daughter is a teacher.

He counts his work to highlight school overcrowding as one of his achievements of his time in the Assembly, which has been spent entirely in opposition, and said he had hoped to become education minister in a Liberal government. But that wasn't to be and Mr Doszpot said the entire Liberal team had been "shattered" by the election loss, given the groundswell against the long-serving Labor government.

He has fought hard this year for tougher rules on dangerous dogs, and said one of his biggest items of unfinished business was compensation for the family of Jack Hartigan, who was badly mauled by two dogs when he visited a public housing property as a six year old in 2010. The government has refused to compensate the family, and Mr Doszpot's attempt to force an ex-gratia payment through the Assembly in August failed. The Liberals are preparing legislation to try to force new laws on dogs.

Mr Doszpot has also taken on the cause of Oaks Estate, which he describes as one of the most ignored parts of Canberra, where there is no public transport and the only shop is a bottle store.

He leaves the Assembly acknowledging a career of "trying my hardest for the lost causes" - and with "success in highlighting issues, if not solving them".

Mr Doszpot's colleagues will farewell him on Tuesday morning.

Associate professor Simone Strasser, a Royal Prince Alfred specialist who is treating Mr Doszpot, said the strong relationship between obesity and diabetes and liver cancer was under-recognised.

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While about 70 per cent of a liver cancer was in people with hepatitis B or C, alcohol, obesity and type 2 diabetes-related cancer was on the rise. Cancer could be prevented through better diet, less alcohol and exercise, as well as diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis B and C. People at risk should have six-monthly ultrasounds, she said.

Liver cancer was the fastest rising cause of cancer death, with death rates almost doubling in two decades, and a five-year survival rate of less than 25 per cent.

Kirsten Lawson is news director at The Canberra Times

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